Recently we celebrated the birthday of a great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an individual that probably did as much for civil rights and equality in this country than any other American in our history. His courage and foresight were instrumental in the strides that minorities have made in this country over the past five or six decades. If not for him, we may not have an African American President today in Barack Obama, if not for him an African American woman, Oprah Winfrey, might not be one of the most powerful people in show business today, if not for him, many of our leaders in politics and diplomacy (e.g. Colin Powell,), sports (e.g. Michael Jordan), and other fields may not have ever gotten the opportunity to fully become who they are.
Now, how this country fulfilled all of the visions and desires that Dr. King imagined and dreamed? Despite the progress that has been made, we as a nation still have a long way to go in guaranteeing equality for all. His visions of equality should be part of every American’s daily interactions with all they come in contact with. His is a message of peace and harmony, it is something worth striving for.
However, this march to the better tomorrow would probably go a lot smoother if many members of our political class stopped and took a moment to today to reflect on their venomous words over the past year or so. Consider:
– Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel: “I want you to know and your viewing audience to know that the group that were in Washington fighting against the health care bill and fighting against the President, looked just like and shouted just like those groups that attacked the civil rights movement in the South.”
– Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: “All those who wore sheets a long time ago have now lifted them off and started wearing clothing with a name, say, I am part of the tea party.”
– Ex-Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson (in referring to the Americans who attended the Glen Beck Washington rally): “These are people who were wearing sheets over their heads 25 years ago.”
– Despicable language coming from our so-called “leaders.” Language that collectively judges and brands millions and millions of Americans with honest and intelligent reasons to oppose Obama Care as racists. These three have never met the very people that they collectively brand as racists, much like the true racists from the 1960s who never met the very African American citizens they collectively branded as inferior relative to the rights they should have in this country.
I never met Dr. King but I am pretty sure, based on his works and words, that he would not have lashed out so viciously at the common Americans who are expressing a personal and honest opinion, as these three, and others in leadership positions have done over the past year or so. Their language does nothing to move the intentions and visions of Dr. King forward and they belittle the true heroes of the Civil Rights era who faced the real racists.
I would also bet that Dr. King would have appreciated the following quote from Elie Wiesel: “No race is superior. No religion is inferior. All collective judgements are wrong. They are racist.” I think Mr. Wiesel accurately describes those politicians that made such wide spread collective judgements about honest Americans who just happen to have divergent opinions.
Furthermore, if these politicans had any concept of American history, they would realize that many, many times it was the political class, through government actions, that were the facilitating racists of bygone years:
– It was the political class, usually the Democratic party in the South, that passed the horrible Jim Crow laws.
– It was the political class, usually the Democratic party in the South, that passed all kinds of laws to make voting and access to polling stations by African Americans very, very difficult to do.
– One of the longest serving Democratic Senators in our history, Robert Byrd of West Virgina, actually admitted to being a one time member of the Ku Klux Klan.
– It was the Federal government’s Supreme Court that institutionalized “separate but equal” for about six decades via their Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling.
– It was the Federal government via the consent of the political class that kept its armed forces segregated from the Civil War through World War II.
– It was the Federal government’s Public Health Service that conducted the repugnant human experiment known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment on 399 African American men.
Today, the political class should take a look around their own working space, Congress, and finally notice the shameful lack of equality in that chamber when it comes to minorities and women. The halls of Congress are still so very out of kilter relative to the rest of American society, couldn’t that be considered a form of racism?
Thus, before Rangel, Lee, and Grayson start falsely blaming ordinary American for racism, they should understand that the most blatant racism in our history was perpetrated and implemented by their historical political brethren.
Unfortunately, the one African American politician that could have done the most to tamp down what Wiesel would categorize as racism, President Obama, has been disappointingly silent when it came to Rangel, Lee, and Grayson. I doubt that Dr. King would have been so timid, given one of his most famous and insightful lines ever: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I am pretty sure Dr. King would have spoken up, realizing that collective judgements of any group of honest Americans is an injustice and needs to be fought, much like he did back in the 1960s.
The other great attribute I find in Dr. Kings vision is the recognition that Americans, and human beings everywhere, want to be free and deserve to be free. Consider one of his greatest insigths ever:
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring. when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Great stuff. However, I wonder how Dr. King would react if he saw today where this country stood as a result of our political class, for all Americans, relative to freedom:
– Can you really be free when the politicians control your retirement wealth via Social Security?
– Can you really be free when the politicians control your retirement health care via Medicare?
– Can you really be free when politicians increasingly control your pre-retirement health care via Obama Care?
– Can you really be free when the politicians control your ability to get a student loan?
– Can you really be free when the politicians control your ability to get a home mortgage via Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHA?
– Can you really be free when the politicians allow instruments of the government to snoop on all aspects of your life via the Patriot Act with minimal checks and balances?
– Can you really be free when the government can hold people forever in prisons like Guantanamo and elsewhere for the mere suspicion of being a terrorist?
– Can you really be free when all levels of government confiscate about 40% of your earnings every year via government taxes and fees?
– Can you really be free when moneyed interests such as unions and corporations overwhelm political campaigns with billions and billions of special interest dollars?
– Can you really be free when primary elections and Congressional district boundaries are manipulated to guarantee that the office incumbent will almost always get re-elected?
– Can you really be free when the political class cannot stop itself from spending and wasting more money than it collects and burdens current and future generations with onerous national debt?
– Can you really be free when you are tagged with some venomous label for simply expressing a different view from a politician?
Thus, despite the insights, actions, successes, and teachings of Dr. King, we still have along way to go in this country to fulfill his dreams of equality and freedom. And the first step in that journey is to understand that the politicians of today and yesterday are and were probably the main obstacles to both objectives.
That is why it is so critical for us all to become more actively involved to ensure that our politicians start acting like the leader Dr. King was and not the self serving, non-problem solving juveniles that we have accepted in positions of power for too long. Equality and freedom should be our mantra, not the hateful political mantra that currently divides our country and denies equality and freedom to all.